Friday, March 30, 2012

What Does March Madness Tell us About Leadership Promotions?

Guest post by DDI's Bradford Thomas:

Being from Kentucky—where we have no professional sports teams—March Madness rises to a whole different level.  It’s our Super Bowl, our World Series and our Stanley Cup. Don’t believe me?  Check out this blog on ESPN.

The annual NCAA Basketball Bracket pool turns everyone into water cooler prognosticators.  Annual bragging rights in the office pool centers on your ability to amass a lot of points by picking the early round upsets.  For those novices reading this blog, it means picking lower skilled teams (10-16 seeds) over much more talented teams (1-4 seeds).  

Now we all know that the odds heavily favor those highly-talented teams, but there are typically a few major upsets each year—including this year where two #2 seeds (Duke and Missouri) fell to #15 seeds for only the sixth time in 20 years.

But does this phenomenon occur in the business world?  You bet your college mascot it does.  Every day companies are making decisions about which individuals to promote on a system similar to the NCAA seeding process:  the odds are heavily weighted to those individuals deemed to be the most talented with talent typically being defined as possessing the best technical skills.  If performance on the job is the equivalent to moving to the next round in the NCAA tournament, you  expect to see the top individual contributors to win.  However, as with March Madness, some lower seeds actually do better.

In last year’s Finding the First Rung study, we asked frontline leaders how they got their job.  We took a look at how frontline leader assessment participants answered this question.  It probably isn’t surprising that a significant chunk of managers said that they were promoted because of their “technical expertise.”  What may be surprising—like Duke losing to Lehigh—is that those managers promoted because of their technical expertise were more likely to have development needs than all other promotion reasons in 6 of the 9 Manager Ready competencies (see table).  Some competencies—like Guiding Interactions—were not even close.

If you were armed with this information prior filling out your promotion brackets—would you continue to automatically promote the technical experts? 

Bradford Thomas, is a product manager with Development Dimensions International (DDI). Brad has more than 18 years of business development, consultative sales, and marketing experience. He is the co-author of six research studies on leadership readiness and sales talent management. Brad has been published in the SmartBrief on Leadership, Workforce magazine’s “Dear Workforce” and DDI’s blog Talent Management Intelligence. Contact him at

How to Handle Disengagement During Meetings

Guest post by Great Leadership regular contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:

Have you ever been in a meeting where one person decided to display a negative attitude? You know, the person who starts reading his PDA, or the other one who suddenly falls quiet, or what about the one who starts to slide down his chair and on to the floor. Well if you are the one in charge of the meeting what is your role in this dysfunction? I recently heard a speaker, who was talking about the culture of accountability say, "You get what you put up with". Bad behavior and rudeness happen because people continually get away with it.

So lets break down bad behavior into three primary categories:

1. Checked out or disengaged

2. Negative

3. Rude

Because of the proliferation of PDAs, I want to specifically discuss the scenario of disengagement. Reading PDAs and "multi-tasking" have become common place in business meetings. So you are leading a meeting and notice that one or more participants are texting or reading email on their smartphones. What options do you have at this point in time? First, you need to assess if this is a theme or an instance i.e. does the person disengaging have a reputation for checking out and not actively participating or is this something unusual for the team member. If this person has a reputation for disengaging then it should be addressed within the meeting. As the leader of the team you have the following options:

1. You can ignore the behavior, limiting the team to less than high performance and continue the dysfunction by not managing the bad behavior. If this is your choice, you may want reevaluate why you are managing a team.

2. You have the option of communicating to the person that you recognize that they are not currently part of the meeting. Ask them "Is there something urgent that you need to take care of at this time?" It may be that an emergency has come up which she needs to address. And if this is the case and she is key to the meeting, then reschedule the meeting. If she isn't key to the meeting, then dismiss her to her emergency. However, in my experience this usually isn't the case.

3. You can wait until after the meeting and then pull the person aside to discuss what was driving the behavior. If there wasn't an emergency, find out how they think their behavior impacts the meeting, other team members, as well as their effectiveness in the job.

4. You can wait for an opportunity to ask her a pointed question specific to the conversation, such as "What do you think of Rick's idea? This will either bring the person back into the conversation and/or will create a moment of embarrassment. Depending on their response, you may need to have a follow on conversation with them one on one.

5. Or you can address the whole team and open the discussion to everyone. What are their thoughts about team members checking out? What would their suggestions be to become a more high performing team and have everyone engaged? This option may uncover process or content issues of the meeting that you haven't considered may be part of the disengaging behaviors.

So as a leader it is your choice, allow the dysfunction to continue and you may wake up without a job in the future. Or, address the issue and set the tone for more productive meetings that will lead to team success.

Beth Armknecht Miller, of Atlanta, Georgia, is Founder and President of Executive Velocity, a leadership development advisory firm accelerating the leadership success of CEOs and business leaders. She is also a Vistage Chair and Executive Coach. She is certified in Myers Briggs and Hogan leadership assessment tools and is a Certified Managerial Coach by Kennesaw State University. Visit or or follow her on twitter at SrExecAdvisor.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

5 Myths about Giving Praise

When I first started out in the corporate training business, I was responsible for training new managers and supervisors. We had a mandatory three week program that covered all the usual HR and operational topics, including performance management. In performance management, we would spend most of the time teaching managers how to deal with performance issues, and about two hours teaching them how to deal with good performance.

It wasn’t that we didn’t think positive reinforcement – or praise was important – it’s just that it seemed like such a no-brainer, and other than offering the usual “be specific, timely, and sincere”, we ran out of things to teach very quickly. It was actually one of their favorite training days, because we always ended up letting them out early.

And we wondered why employee satisfaction was so low and turnover so high. Looking back, it seems pretty “dumb and dumber” doesn’t it?

Fast forward to today, and I’m afraid things haven’t changed too much. Research shows that ‘appreciation for a job well done’ consistently ranks highly as a motivator in employee surveys. Yet research also shows that most people don’t feel they get enough praise.

Why is praise such an undervalued and underused management skill? Maybe it’s because we still believe the following myths regarding giving praise:

1. “You can overdo it.”
Well, maybe in theory, I suppose that’s possible. In fact, some would say we’ve raised a generation of kids that have received too much praise. If that’s true, it sure hasn’t carried over to the workplace. I can prove it: try conducting this experiment with any group of employees. Ask them “how many of you receive too much praise from your manager”? I’ve been doing this poll for over 20 years, and I’ve never seen a single hand go up. As a manager, yes, it’s a risk that your employees might get sick of all that praise you’re giving them, but I think it’s a risk worth taking.

2. “It’s easy!”
Sure, it’s easy to say “good job”. The hard part is describing the specific behaviors or characteristics that went into getting the good results. It’s the same in our personal relationships. How many of us mechanically tell our spouses or kids that we love them, but never take the time to tell them why we love them?

In my experience, managers (and people in general) just aren’t very good at coming up with ways to describe competencies (knowledge, skills, behaviors, attitudes) in a way that’s meaningful. I’d recommend purchasing a dictionary of competencies – like Lominger’s FYI – to use as a resource guide until it begins to feel more natural.

3. “It’s all about technique.”
Yes, learning how to give praise is important – but it’s so much more than a skill building exercise. More importantly, the willingness and ability to give praise is a value, or a mindset.

People that are overly judgmental, suspicious by nature, insecure, and aloof will often treat praise like a scarce resource, only to be rationed out in small quantities in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

People that are good at giving praise tend to see people, and the world, with a different set of eyes. They look for the positive, and can see good in people and situations that the rest of us can’t see.

The good news is, minds can be changed and attitudes can be learned. But it’s much harder than practicing skill technique!

4. “Not everyone needs or wants praise.” Or, “They know it – so they don’t need to hear it from me”.
The need to feel valued and appreciated is a basic human need. It transcends culture, race, gender, and age. Sure, some people say they don’t need or want praise – and they may even believe it. They may be uncomfortable receiving praise, and respond in an awkward way that makes you feel uncomfortable. However – I guarantee you – these same people are the ones taking that report card, performance appraisal, or email home and showing it to their family or keeping it as a memento.

Unless you are told outright to stop it – keep doing it. After all, it’s about making the receiver feel good, not you.

5. “It takes too much time”.
“No time to do it” = low in priority. Period, no excuses. With the right mindset (looking for the positive, sincerity), and right skills (specific and timely), giving praise will motivate your employees, improve your relationships, and at the end of the day, make you a better person. Not a bad ROI for 30 seconds of your time.

Ready to turn over a new leaf but not sure where to start? Here’s what you can do today to get started:

Pick one person. It could be a spouse, your child, friend, co-worker, or employee – and think of one thing they’ve recently done that you really appreciated. Or, it could be one characteristic that you really admire about them. Write down the specific behaviors or traits that made you feel that way, and why. If you’re struggling, ask someone for help.

Then, tell the person. Use email, phone, in person, Skype, whatever…., it doesn’t matter. Just beware – experiencing people’s reactions to sincere, specific praise can cause prolonged euphoria and be highly addictive. Don’t overdo it! Start with a once a week dosage, then gradually increase frequency until your body chemistry stabilizes.

Good luck!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Leadership Lessons from the World’s Most Admired Companies

Guest post from Hay Group's Mel Stark:

Hay Group is often asked about what we’ve learned from the World’s Most Admired Companies. When it comes to fostering and developing leadership, my answer tends to be that it’s just a part of what WMACs do; it's engrained in their DNA. That's not to say that these companies are not conscious of leadership. In fact, I mean quite the opposite. WMACs are always conscious of and investing in the development and leadership of their people. Leadership is the "glue" that connects the WMACs' business strategy, operations and program changes, and ultimately, their commitment to human capital.

We've been researching the WMACs for 15 years and throughout that time, they have consistently made the development of their future leaders a top priority. In fact, executives at the WMACs say they devote as much as 30% of their time to “developing the next class of leaders.” As such, it’s no surprise that the WMACs score higher than their peers on “quality of management,” report greater satisfaction with the quality and breadth of leadership at both the executive and senior management levels, and are twice as satisfied with their high potential talent pool.

The question, however, is why?

First, the WMACs place a greater emphasis on their leadership development programs and processes for identifying future leaders, when compared to their peers. They invest in planned career assignments and individual or one-on-one coaching, rather than formal, in-house training programs. And most importantly, their collective development efforts are critically aligned with the organizations strategic goals. So, its development “fit for purpose”, it’s dynamic, thoughtful and planned, as opposed to “one size fits all”.

Second, the WMACs believe "social and emotional" skill development is twice as important as "technical" skill development. So, they use "competency models" (identified behavioral traits and underlying characteristics of an individual which cause or predict effective and/or superior performance in a job or situation) more frequently than their peers to help them identify and develop leadership talent. As a result, when compared to their peers, WMACs report that greater proportions of their executives demonstrate emotional intelligence, especially in the areas of self-awareness, self management and social awareness. These characteristics are particularly critical when considering that the WMACs cited an “inability to work in teams” and “insensitivity to others” as the most likely factors, behind “lack of vision/strategic thinking”, that contribute to high potentials derailing.

To further emphasize the distinction between leadership at WMACs when compared to peer companies, Hay Group studied a group of 23 high-potential candidates in a well know WMAC. Of the 12 that succeeded and moved up in the organization, all demonstrated self control and empathy 7 times and 3 times, respectively, more frequently than those who were passed over - reinforcing the importance WMACs place on "social and emotional" skills.

While the WMACs' well-defined approach to leadership and development provides a "best practice" for other organizations to follow, it's important to note that, at the end of the day, the key to successful leadership often lies with the individual. Leaders must develop self awareness, and be mindful of how they engage others and the outcomes they produce.

What practices does your organization implement to develop the next generation leaders?

Mel Stark is a Vice President and Regional Reward Practice leader at Hay Group.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How to Discuss a Problem with Your Manager

When you’ve been a manager for a long time, or are used to working with lots of managers, you sometimes forget how hard it is for an employee to approach their boss to discuss something that’s bothering them.

For many employees, the thought of “confronting” a boss can be so intimidating, that they will come up with all sorts of other ways to cope with the situation, including:

- Avoidance

- Being a victim

- Passive aggressiveness

- Discussing the problem with their co-workers, friends, and family

- Dropping subtle hints hoping the boss with get the message

- And sometimes, even looking for another job or quitting!

Yes, it’s true, some employees would rather leave an otherwise good job instead of initiating a discussion with their manager to discuss whatever’s bothering them.

Here’s a recent conversation I had with a young employee:

Employee: “I think my boss isn’t happy with me. She’s going to fire me”.

Me: “Really? What’s she upset about?”

Employee: “I don’t know, but I can tell she’s upset”.

Me: “Have you talked to her about it?”

Employee: “OMG, I can’t do that. Do you think I should quit before she fires me?”

Me: “Quit? Seriously? You don’t even know what’s going on! Why don’t you just sit down and talk with her?”

Employee: “Ha, easy for you to say! You do this HR touchy feely stuff all the time. Where would I even start?”

And that’s when I realized I didn’t have a good grasp as to where this young employee was coming from. I’ve written plenty of posts on How to Discuss an Employee Performance Problem but have never really provided guidance on how to have a similar conversation sitting on the other side of the table.

Why talk to your boss?

Why is talking to your boss better than the other alternatives mentioned previously? Because there really can’t be a bad outcome – you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Let’s use the scenario above – you sense something is bothering your boss – maybe she’s been abrupt with you, critical, avoiding you, or whatever. If you don’t do anything, the situation usually doesn’t improve and you might end up doing something stupid, like quitting or losing your temper.

However, if you talk to your boss, chances are, one of four things will happen:

1. Your boss may have had no idea that whatever he/she was doing or not doing was having an impact on you. In other words, they might have been clueless, and by you bringing it to their attention (in a respectful, constructive way), they can easily correct it. As a manager, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the receiving end of these kinds of discussions. Unless you’re a total jerk, you welcome the opportunity to clarify your intentions and fix your behavior.

2. Your boss may be dealing with some other issue that has nothing to do with you, and again, was unaware of his/her behavior. Bosses are human and can have bad days and personal problems, just like anyone else.

3. In either scenarios #1 & #2, your boss may be perfectly happy with your performance, and you’ll feel much better knowing that (and withdraw those job applications on Monster).

4. Your boss may actually be upset with you – and for some reason, has been avoiding telling you. Unfortunately, many bosses also don’t like confrontation and aren’t very good at it. In this case, you’ll at least have an opportunity to find out what the problem is. Once you know that, you can work on making it better. If it’s something you can’t make better or don’t want to, then at least you’ll know where you stand and can pursue other options for the right reasons.

How to approach your boss

1. Make a 30 minute appointment to talk to your boss. As a manager, I prefer this approach over the drop in “do you have a minute”, although it really depends on your boss’s style. In either case, it’s always better to try to catch your boss during a less hectic time of day and when she/her is having a good week.

2. Decide what you want to say and how you want to say it. Talk your concern over with a mentor and decide how to present the issue in a constructive, assertive, specific, and factual way. I’d even suggest role playing the discussion with your mentor or a trusted friend. Do not discuss it with your co-workers, your manager’s manager, or HR unless it’s a serious violation, i.e., harassment.

3. Describe the behavior (not your assumptions about possible intentions) and the impact of the behavior on you. Try to be as specific as possible. Example: “Barb, yesterday, when I said hello to you, you walked right by me without saying anything. In the past, you’ve always said hello when we see each other, but I notice lately you haven’t been. It’s making me feel like you’re mad at me for something. Is there something I’ve done to upset you?”

4. Listen, don’t be defensive, and ask clarifying questions. Again, best case scenario is there isn’t really a problem and your boss wasn’t aware of the impact of his/her behavior. If there really is a problem, and the problem is you, then great, you’re on the road to solving it! Study up on 18 Tips for Receiving Feedback.

5. Work with you manager to solve the problem. Offer your own suggestions, and ask your manager for ideas. Ask your manager to describe what it would look like when you are meeting expectations. Read 10 Ways to be a Great Follower.

6. Thank your manager for his/her time and willingness to discuss the issue with you. If appropriate, set up a 15 minute follow-up meeting to check in and make sure things are back on track.

I hope that helps to give more employees the confidence to talk with their managers – or maybe even their parents, teachers, or anyone in a position of authority. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Who is Not Afraid of Radical Change?

Guest post by Mark Mueller-Eberstein, co-author of “No Fear: Business Leadership in the Age of Digital Cowboys”. Good timing, having just experienced a bit of what Mark describes in a recent trip to China.

Organizations and society are transforming at radical speed. How can leaders keep up? Are t hey afraid? For sure we are. But can work ourselves and our organization into an environment of a “No Fear business”.

We all have learned that “Knowledge is power”. That stays true even in these new times. But in the decades past, the person of influence was the one who controlled information and expertise and was holding on to knowledge. This person could turn knowledge into power. A successful strategy for the 1980, but not true anymore today! The information advantage of today is outdated tomorrow and teams value their leaders by their contribution to the knowledge creation of the team.

Our world is changing in breath-taking speed. In the last 5 years there has been more knowledge created than in the 5,000 years before combined. The change in the effectiveness and the speed on how people communicate and collaborate accelerates the creating of knowledge exponentially for those who are used to leveraging and leading the transformation.

People, have grown up with the knowledge and entertainment society and who cannot remember a time without the internet or mobile phones. We call those with the highest experiences of connectivity, access to information and need for authenticity the “Digital Cowboys. They are now not only entering the workplace, but often leading organizations and teams. In the “western world”, we have a demographic where these young “Digital Cowboys” are still a relatively small minority in our organizations and especially in the management ranks. For us here, there are enough “old school” managers available to fill the open positions in the second and third tiers of management . Very different situation in demographically “young” countries like Russia or China. With 60 to over 70 percent of the population being under 30 years old, the digital cowboys are in all ranks of today’s organizations.

That holds true for both organizations native to these countries, but also western companies building subsidiaries and partnerships there have no choice than bringing the “Digital Cowboys” into leadership positions and therefor transforming not only the front-line of their organizations, but also the management and leadership teams themselves\. We have just seen the first small wave of the globalization, the mobile revolution and consumer driven economy. The “digital cowboys” are networked by nature and they dare to question the value created by those who are supposed to lead them – even in public and for all to see on the internet. Scared, yet?

Typical questions: If expectations and rules are so different, how do I as a leader of today have a change to make money with these arrogant, restless youngsters as employees or customers? How do I lead them within modern and future proof organizations?

Uncertainty often results in fear. And leader need to decide quickly whether you learn and act without fear or put your head in the sand. More and more successful leaders have confronted these fears and turned them into insights and strengths for their and their organizations’ future.

Challenges are out there. Just being ”Fearless” is more a sign of stupidity than courage. With deep understanding and an attitude to embrace the change, people can overcome the paralysis or hectic over-action driven by uncontrolled ”fear”, achieving “No Fear” leadership. These leaders are free of fear in their objective decision making and ready to cease the opportunities, achieving success.

A key asset of the US are some of the best research and education institutions, but also a culture that fosters critical questioning, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. There is only on Silicon Valley or Harvard, but the importance has been recognized by others as well. While Facebook, Amazon, EBay, Twitter and LinkedIn were invented in the US, similar platforms exist today in Russia and China with much higher adoption by the local population than the American originals there.

Opportunities are plenty and both an individual’s and an organization’s growth will be highly rewarded by the market. While western markets have mostly matured, the majority of the golden growth opportunities are generated by either new service innovations (sometimes combined with physical products) or by an exceptional performance in the so called “emerging” markets. We have just seen the start of how mobile technologies are changing “work” and the broader societies and riding this wave will make or break organizations. As leaders, the way we engage, motivate and become ourselves “Digital Cowboys” will be the deciding factor for our and our organizations’ success.

Transforming ourselves and our organizations will be the critical management and leadership task for the years to come.

The key for an individual and an organization’s success is a holistic approach to deep-dive into the leadership challenges and solutions of present and future leaders. It builds a picture for today’s corporate world to successfully master the challenges of tomorrow with a truly global and people oriented way.

About the author:
Mark Mueller-Eberstein is the co-author of “No Fear: Business Leadership in the Age of Digital Cowboys” with Pekka Viljakainen. They are engaging with the readers of the No Fear Book at Mueller-Eberstein is also a Professor is teaching “Change Management” at Rutgers University, is the CEO of the strategy consulting company Adgetec Corporation and bestselling author of “AGILITY: Competing and Winning in a Tech-Savvy Marketplace.”

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How to Encourage Your Employees to Think and Act Like Owners

Guest post by Brad Hams:

Entitlement has become more and more pervasive in our culture over the past several generations, due in part to the (misguided) self-esteem movement, but also to government’s ever expanding promise to give people things that most of them could, in fact, obtain themselves through work and perseverance. This has created dependence, which crushes potential. The further people go down the road of dependence, the more addicted they become. The tragedy is that they are miserable in this life, because it is purposeless, and they feed their addiction by wanting more and more stuff, which they in fact have no gratitude for since they have not earned it. They are also living in fear, because they have lost confidence in their ability to survive on their own. This has additionally manifested itself in a spiral of debt, as the producers are unable to sustain the addiction of the ever growing population of non-producers (Ayn Rand would call them moochers). Financially this is unsustainable, however we must, I believe, focus first and foremost on the moral implications of creating a culture of purposeless (I would say inhuman) citizens. Human beings were meant for far, far more than this.

As a business owner or business leader, you are in a unique position to create a culture in your organization that will help your employees break the addiction of entitlement and dependence, and become active participants in the business’s financial performance. Here are three steps that I recommend in order to accomplish this:

1. Teach your employees the fundamentals of business and finance, how their company makes money, and how they add (or take away) value. This will enable them to have a better understanding of how organizations actually function from a financial perspective, and dispel the common myths regarding average profit margins (most employees believe their company is making 30% to 50% profit). Typically, this will create an environment where employees are more cognizant of waste, and will help to reduce it.

2. If you want to engage your employees in financial performance, they will need to see some numbers. You may be uncomfortable sharing financial statements, and in fact, these may not be the most effective method to do it anyway. Why?

- They are too complicated for most employees to understand. In fact, there is a fairly high percentage of people on leadership teams who are not particularly financially savvy.

- They are old news. Financial statements are typically available about midway through the following month. Even if they were available the day after the month, they are still old news, and nothing can be done to change them.

- They do not focus on the leading, often activity based, measures that in fact create them.

Given these issues, you may want to spend some time identifying those leading KPIs that in fact drive financial performance, and focus employees on those. And, to be proactive, have them begin forecasting results rather than looking only at historical data.

3. If you are diligent about these first two activities, the financial performance in your organization should increase significantly. Now you can look at creating a broad-based incentive plan tied to organizational performance, because it will be self-funded.

This methodology actually requires employees to participate in the business and financial elements of the business, rather than simply the tasks they may perform in it. It allows them to be a part of driving the financial performance of the business, and furthermore, to participate in that improved financial performance by virtue of the incentive plan (and/or equity improvements if you chose to share equity). Most importantly, it creates a purposeful workforce that is now in charge of its own destiny, and no longer entrenched in entitlement, dependence, and purposelessness.


Brad Hams is on a mission to eradicate entitlement. His company, Ownership Thinking, has helped over 1,500 companies to do this, and to create cultures of earning; of employees who think and act like owners.
Prior to founding Ownership Thinking in 1995, Brad was president of Mrs. Fields Mexico, and held leadership positions in a fortune 100 company. He is a lifelong student of business and finance, and holds a master’s degree in Organization Development and Human Resources. Brad is an internationally recognized consultant and speaker, and the author of Ownership Thinking: How to End Entitlement and Create a Culture of Accountability, Purpose, and Profit (McGraw Hill, 2011).
You can reach Brad at

Monday, March 12, 2012

Leadership Development and China

I’ll be traveling to Shanghai, China to begin discussions with a large state-owned company that’s interested in our executive development programs.

I’ve been to China and Asia before, but it’s been a while. Also, I’ve never actually been involved in a business negotiation process with the Chinese.

Here’s what I know:

1. You MUST understand the roots of Chinese culture in order to understand the elements of Chinese negotiations. Things like Guanxi (personal connections), Shehui Dengji (social status), Jiejian (thrift), and Maianzi (“Face”) will all come into play at one time or another. A lack of understanding leads to frustration and a lack of business.

2. While there are differences in context and culture, generally speaking, the principles of leadership and management are universal.

3. Drink only bottled beverages.

Fortunately, I have lots of smart readers from all over the world with tons of experience to share. How about passing along some of that wisdom for me and my readers?

1. What advice do you have for doing business with China?

2. What advice do you have when it comes to executive/management/leadership development and China?

3. Any travel tips?

In addition to publishing your comment and being a valuable resource to me and other readers, I’ll offer a prize (a book or gift from China), using To be eligible for the drawing, you must leave me a way to contact you (Twitter or email).

Entries must be received by next Monday, March 19th, 2012.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

10 Tips on How to Shine in a Talent Review Meeting

If you’re a manager, at some point in your career, if you haven’t already, you’ll be required to participate in something called a “talent review” meeting. That’s HR-speak for a meeting where a bunch of managers get together behind closed doors and talk about their employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Like it or not, employee ranking is still a fact of organizational life.

I’ve been involved in hundreds of these meeting marathons, both as a participating manager and as a meeting facilitator.

There are usually three reasons why organizations conduct these meetings:

1. Succession planning and leadership development. Talent reviews are a way to assess the employees of an organization in order to identify high potentials, as well as underperformers. Management teams often use a performance and potential matrix to identify these “A”, “B”, and “C” players.

2. Downsizing. Many, if not most medium-large organizations use some version of a forced ranking process to determine who stays and who goes.

3. Performance appraisal and/or compensation administration. While not as common, some organizations involve the entire management team to ensure there is consistency and differentiation in performance rankings and rewards (increases and bonuses).

While these meetings may have very different objectives, processes, and outcomes, there are some common things a manager should do to prepare and effectively participate. Why? Well, because if you don’t, you run the risk of looking like a dolt in front of your boss and peers. Even more importantly, you’re doing your employees and the organization a disservice by not representing them accurately and fairly.

Unfortunately, other than trial by fire and tribal learning, I’ve never seen a resource for managers on how to prepare for and participate in these meetings. So, here you go – based on my own battle scars and observations, here’s 10 tips for how to shine at a talent review meeting (and avoid looking like a dolt):

1. Understand the process.
If this is your first talent review meetings, don’t be afraid to ask questions before the meeting. If you’re not clear on something, chances are, others may not be as well. There’s usually someone from HR involved in running these things – seek that person out and pick their brains. They should be able to explain the process and ground rules. DO NOT show up to the meeting ignorant and then waste everyone else’s time asking dumb questions.

2. Do your homework.
Gather up performance data, individual development plans, assessments, and anything else that can arm you with ammunition to defend your assessment of your employees. If there is criteria (and there usually is), bring plenty of specific examples that illustrate each criteria.
If available, gather (discreetly) information about other manager’s employees as well. At a minimum, be prepared to offer opinions on as many employees as you’ve had exposure to and be ready to justify those opinions. Again, do not show up and try to “wing it” – your lack of preparation will be painfully obvious.

3. Take a “we” approach, not a “mine and yours” approach.
Talent reviews are about shared ownership of an organization’s talent. It’s a time to be a team player. The objective should be to identify the best and worst in every department, not just your own. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you come across as too territorial and biased.

4. When speaking about your own employees, be candid, objective, and provide examples, both positive and negative. See tip #2.

5. However - be succinct and direct. No one is interested in your employee’s entire biographies. I’ve seen too many managers “think out loud” at these meetings, rattle on and on, and change their minds over and over.

6. Be prepared to listen non-defensively to the perspectives of other managers and be willing to change your ratings. Who knows, you might have had a HUGE blind spot about your superstar employee. If three other managers say your employee quacks like a duck, then maybe your employee is a duck.

7. Be engaged. When it’s another manager’s turn to discuss their employees, this IS NOT the time to pull out your Blackberry and tune out, or start a side conversation with your neighbor. Listen carefully, and offer candid, direct, and respectful opinions if you have them.

8. Take notes. Too many managers get caught up in the moment, but then a few days later, forget all about the feedback they received on their employees or action they agreed to. The exception to this tip is if HR does not allow you to takes notes from the meeting, which is common in downsizing meetings.

9. Follow the ground rules regarding what gets shared after the meeting. Usually, what’s said in Vegas stays in Vegas. Don’t be that idiot that violates the team’s confidentiality agreement.

10. Follow-up on commitments.
I hate it when you spend hours, or days, in these meetings and agree on actions to be taken. Then, six months later, some manager(s) shows up and hasn’t done a damn thing they said they were going to. There’s an easy way to make sure this never happens again, and it’s up to the senior manager to make sure there are painful consequences.

In fact, the senior manager in these meetings plays a critical role in “training” other managers how to prepare and conduct themselves. One of my favorite executives ran his talent reviews with an iron fist. I took pity on the poor manager who didn’t prepare, follow the ground rules, and participate effectively. He was letting them know that talent management was an important priority to him – not just some HR exercise that he couldn’t wait to finish.

I’m sure there are lots of readers who have participated in these meetings – what would you add to the list?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The March 2012 Leadership Development Carnival Going Green Edition

Welcome to the March 4th, 2012 Leadership Development Carnival Going Green Edition. Nope, it's not sustainable, organic, or renewable..... not that green. It's the wearing of the green to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day this month!

There's a lot 'o good reading here, so why not pour a mug of your favorite green beverage and take in a wee bit of leadership development.


Mark Bennett, from TalentedApps, starts us off with Leadership and Thinking – What’s the Catch?
"What kind of thinking is best for leaders to exhibit vs. what kind of thinking do people want to see?"

Jennifer V. Miller, from The People Equation, gives us 7 Things Employees Want to Know In a Department Reshuffle.
As a leader, have you become blasé about seemingly endless company reorganizations? Your employees haven’t. Read Jennifer Miller’s post to get the low-down on how to get your employees on board with the latest reshuffling of the boxes on the org. chart." Hint: it starts with the radio station WIIFM....

Art Petty serves up some Leadership Caffeine-12 Shots of Leadership Espresso from his Management Excellence blog.

Jane Perdue, from LeadBIG (new name and design) submits this post by Deb Costello: Just Get Up and Lead.
Deb using a moving story to illustrate that good leaders are a combination of three things; ability, integrity and compassion.

Miki Saxon, from MAPping Company Success gives us this 4 part series: Ducks in a Row: A Serious Downside to Always On.
How important is it that your people disconnect instead of being on 24/7? Is it the boss's responsibility to make sure that happens? If so, what kind of example do you set?

And if you liked that last post, wait until you read Steve Roesler, from All Things Workplace, with  Master the Segue.
Leaders are databases of information. Successful leaders know how to tie that info together and connect the dots for their people. Here's one really good technique to remember.

Pot 'O Gold:

Welcome Chery Gegelman, from The Profoundly Simple blog, with her debut Carnival post Diamonds in the rough:  How to recognize your star employees, published in SmartBlog on Leadership.
"When I ask executives and hiring managers what their biggest challenge is, at least 90% of the time I get the same answer:  “People.”  Followed by a quick explanation about how hard it is to find enough qualified and caring people to do the work.  So here’s the challenge, if polished gems don’t grow on trees: How and where do you find them?"

Wally Bock, from Three Star Leadership, gives us So now you're the boss.
There are some times in life when everything changes. Becoming a boss is one of those times.

Robert Tanner, from Management is a Journey  passes along some wise advice from his Grandmother with In 100 Words: When Being Too Smart is the Problem.
Have you ever heard the expression that some people are too smart for their own good?  It turns out that there is much truth in this saying and leaders are often the biggest culprits.  Sometimes leaders are just "too smart" to effectively lead others.

Rising leadership blogging star Jesse Lyn Stoner, from Jesse Lyn Stoner Blog, gives us Characteristics of an Effective Vision: Create a DRIVING Vision.
What's the difference between a vague, "pie-in-the-sky" vision and one that steers your team on a daily basis? This post describes the 7 characteristics of a DRIVING vision. It also includes a link to a quick (free) assessment that shows to extent your team is guided by a shared vision and provides advice on how to proceed.

David Burkus, from LeadersLab, gives us How Good Leaders Become Bad Bosses.

Melody Bridgewater, from The Thoughtful Leaders Blog gives us Lisa Kohn's Leadership lessons from the Oscars…Silence deserves an award.
"I was reminded (and amazed) at how much we reveal with everything other than our actual words."


A warm welcome to another new blogger Mary Ila Ward, from Horizon Point Consulting, who gives us The Priceless Handwritten Note.
"This blog post discusses importance of leaders writing handwritten notes in order to express to people that they are valued.  It highlights instances of where I’ve seen the handwritten note used and its impact as well as recommendations for getting started on writing handwritten notes regularly."

Scott Eblin, from Scott Eblin's Next Level Blog gives us  Does Your Team Really Know What You Want?
Executive coach and author Scott Eblin shares a quick overview and a video coaching session with three tips for leaders who want to get results by leveraging their team.

Eric Pennington from Epic Living Blog presents Does Your Corporate Team Look Like Urban Meyer’s.
In this post, Eric Pennington, explores what is missing from many organizational structures.

Mike Henry Sr., from Lead Change Group presents a post from Chad Balthrop, The Remarkable Power of Lists.
Chad Balthrop makes a compelling argument for the value and importance of lists, not as a substitute for leadership, but as a way to clarify vision, purpose and priorities.  Lists help us think and communicate and, like the monthly carnival, they help us eliminate the noise and focus on the important.

Anna Farmery from The Engaging Brand presents Do you know your augmentation gene?

S. Chris Edmonds from Driving Results Through Culture presents Cultivate Intelligent Disobedience
Blanchard's culture guru, S. Chris Edmonds, describes  how organization's can help talented staff do the right thing -    beyond policies & procedures.

Green Beer:

Mary Jo Asmus from Mary Jo AsmusWhat is the Conversation You Need to Have?
Even leaders sometimes have a hard time knowing how to conceptualize and start a tough conversation. Some tips to get started from Mary Jo Asmus are in this post.

Sharlyn Lauby from HR Bartender seves up Leadership Isn't About Being First.                               
Leadership is about knowing when to let others go first

Wayne Turmel w/guest Jay Jamrog from The Cranky Middle Manager Show gives us The top human capital needs of 2012.
What do the people who lead companies worry about when they think about their people? Research says leaders of good companies think a little differently than those just hustling to get by…..

Here's Joel Garfinkle's guest post on LeaderLab How Fear of Self-Promotion Can Kill Your Career
If you want to keep moving ahead in your career, it is absolutely essential that you overcome your fear of self-promotion.

Benjamin McCall from ReThinkHr presents We were not meant to work…
There is no doubt that more of us are feeling the pressure to work and perform. However, we also need to remember why we are truly here! Our sole purpose was not for us to work... We are meant to do more than just that...

Lynn Dessert from Elephants at Work presents Using Strong Interest Survey for Career Decisions
Whether you are at a career crossroads or are looking to validate your direction, assessments can assist in your decision-making process.

And to close out this Green edition of the Leadership Development Carnival, Dan McCarthy from Great Leadership presents the Muppets, with a tearful rendition of  "Danny Boy":

That's it for this  month's edition!

The next Leadership Development Carnival will be on April 1, hosted by Tanmay Vora at his QAspire blog. If you would like to submit a recent leadership development post, please send it to tnvora at yahoo dot com by 3/31/2012.

Friday, March 2, 2012

6 Ways Leaders Are Different

Guest post by By Mark Miller, Co-author of Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life:

For more than a decade, I've used the metaphor of an iceberg to talk about leadership -- the 10% above the water line represents the skills of the leader and the 90% below represents their character. The Secret, a book I co-authored with Ken Blanchard, outlines what we believe great leaders do -- the skills part of the picture. However, the question I have gotten consistently ever since we started using the iceberg illustration is this, "What are the character traits of great leaders?"

On more than one occasion, I have answered the character question by asking, "What are the traits you are trying to instill in your children?" Typical responses would include: dependability, honesty, integrity and hard work. I would say, "That's what leaders need." Now that I look back, my answer was incorrect. Dependability, honesty, integrity and hard work are needed by EVERY employee -- including the leaders; therefore, none of these are distinctive of leaders.

So the first question I've been wrestling with is: Are leaders really different? My answer is yes. Clearly, we all want our leaders to be dependable, honest, show integrity and be hard working, but our organizations demand more and so do we. Therefore, my second question has been -- How are leaders different?

Here's a short list of six attributes that I believe you're more likely to see in leaders than non-leaders. It is not an exhaustive list, but most of the great leaders I've known personally, and those I've studied, have demonstrated some measure of the following traits.

Optimism -- Men and women in leadership are generally optimistic. They see a preferred future and can envision a path to make it a reality – despite the obstacles.

Judgment -- The best leaders have the ability to make good decisions – even when the data is incomplete.

Ownership -- Great leaders are willing to take responsibility for their actions, the actions of those they lead and the outcomes of their efforts.

Initiative -- Good leaders are known for being proactive. They are willing to act – and often, they are the first to act.

Courage -- To lead well requires bold decisions, decisive decisions - to stand alone if necessary. To lead well requires courage.

Servanthood -- The best leaders are motivated by a heart to serve. They want to serve the organization, their people, their customers and all their stakeholders.

What character traits do you see in the best leaders?

© 2012 Mark Miller, co-author of Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life

Mark Miller, co-author of Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life, is vice president, training and development, for Chick-fil-A. During his career he has served in corporate communications, restaurant operations, quality and customer satisfaction, and numerous other leadership positions. He began his Chick-fil-A career in 1977 working as an hourly team member. He is the author of The Secret of Teams and is the coauthor of The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do with Ken Blanchard.

For more information please visit and